Northampton wins national recognition for promoting crafts

  • Tiffany DeAngelo, of Easthampton, works on her art pieces May 6 in the Yeti Market during Florence Night Out. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Tiffany DeAngelo, of Easthampton, works on her art pieces May 6 in the Yeti Market during Florence Night Out.

  • David Brewster of Vermont has a studio at the Arts & Industry Building in Florence and does most of his painting at outdoor sites like this abandoned bridge over Clesson Brook in Buckland Four Corners, pictured June 24.

  • David Brewster, Christine Yario, Kirk Peterson

@DHGCrosby
Published: 8/1/2016 12:08:59 AM

NORTHAMPTON — When Linda Daniels curls up in her blue-and-white patterned afghan, she thinks about the six pairs of loving hands that knit the piece together.

The Northampton Wools owner was gifted the blanket by several store employees who worked in collaboration to produce it.

That involved process of creating, Daniels said, is one of the things she loves about the Pioneer Valley.

The region recently gained national recognition for its vibrant craft scene by American Craft Week, the nation’s largest annual craft event. Northampton was named No. 8 among the Top Ten Towns for Craft Lovers, with more than 47,789 votes tallied during the contest. Other winning locations include No. 1, Berea, Ky., along with St. Petersburg, Fla., Bedford, Va., Cumberland Valley, Pa., Brattleboro, Vt., Blue Ridge, Ga., Asheville, N.C., New Hope, Pa., and Lousville, Ky.

Daniels was not surprised Northampton made the list, because the “Valley’s attitude is very much do-it-myself,” she said, sitting among a rainbow of wool skeins Sunday at the shop’s 29 Pleasant St. location.

When the store offers a “learn to knit in three hours” workshop, it is always full. Locals frequent Northampton Wools for natural, acrylic and nylon fiber blends for projects ranging from fingerless mittens to larger garments like sweaters.

“Crafting is creating something that you love through all the stages,” Daniels said. “From the making it, to the finishing it, to the using it.”

Jena Sujat, owner of curated craft store PINCH, 179 Main St., said Northampton offers the best craft scene within a 90-mile radius.

The area has a unique local pool of talent for creating things, she said. When people aren’t making their own things by hand, they’re frequenting stores like hers to support the nearly 50 potters who have work featured at PINCH. The store always sells handmade jewelry, wall art, rugs and accessories.

Kate Jenkins said the Northampton area has a lot of community and local government support for crafts, and that makes a difference.

“It’s a town not very interested in chain stores,” she said.

Jenkins is the open studios coordinator for Arts & Industries in Florence, where roughly 50 craftspeople rent space for their work. Each year, the organization hosts an open house to which an estimated 2,000 visitors flock to meet local jewlers, potters, hand weavers, clothing makers, printmakers, sculptors and fine artists. The 2016 event will be held Nov. 14 and 15 at 221 Pine St.

“Using your hands engages the mind in the most wonderful way” said Jenkins, who also weaves fabric and makes prints. She described her work creating tapestries as “painting with yarn.”

Daniels believes the boom in technology plays an important role in the resurgence of crafting among young people, because slowing down to make things is “a way to balance that life.”

Northampton, being a part of the Five College area, draws creators of all ages to her store, she said.

Daniels said technology has also helped to spread information about what craftspeople do and how to do it.

But the store owner said the Valley has always been, right from the beginning, “interested in the naturalness of life.”

Since she bought the store in 1998, Daniels experiences people consistently interesting in making things, on a daily basis.

“It means putting all your love into the process,” she said.

Sarah Crosby can be reached at scrosby@gazettenet.com.


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